Again, the second half of the serial, while by no means great, is a significant improvement over the leaden first half. Eckersley may have turned into a bit of a panto sadist (he chuckles at the idea of the miners being massacred), but at least he’s vivid. Ortron gets to go out in style, proving to be a better chancellor than Hepesh as he hurls himself in front of the Queen to protect her from the Ice Warriors. And Azaxyr continues to be an excellent addition, revealed as an anti-Federation Marxiteer pining for the ‘good old days of death or glory’ – a jingoist like so many of the baddies this series.
Against this proliferation of villains, our band of heroes suddenly looks a bit bloodless, especially after the fruity Ortron and wildly overacting Ettis are done for. Queen Thalira continues to have all the conviction of a bored schoolgirl: ‘Do you think you could faint convincingly?’ hisses Sarah, and you suspect Elisabeth Sladen is putting a lot of her own feelings into the line. In a cracking bit of foreshadowing, Sladen also gets to wistfully recall the Doctor saying, ‘While there’s life…’ Alpha Centauri, meanwhile, gets the second best line: ‘Thank you Eckersley but you’re still a traitor.’ The best belongs to Eckersley: ‘I’m sorry about the Doctor, believe me, but he should never have got involved in local politics.’ A hundred Lib Dem councillors nod in weary agreement.
Next episode: The Monster of Peladon – Part Six